LSO/Gergiev Tim Hugh [Tout un monde lointain … Parsifal]

Tout un monde lointain …
Parsifal – Act III

Tim Hugh (cello)

Gurnemanz – Robert Holl
Parsifal – Sergey Semishkur
Amfortas – Evgeny Nikitin
Kundry – Genevieve Cope

Gentlemen of the London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 12 March, 2009
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Valery GergievWhatever the rationale of this particular coupling (be it enlightenment or journeying, maybe) it worked well on the night – quite one of the finest LSO/Gergiev concerts to date – and drew a large audience.

Henri Dutilleux (born 1916) and still composing – a piece for Renée Fleming and orchestra (settings of Baudelaire) is due for its imminent premiere – wrote Tout un monde lointain … between 1968 and 1970 for Mstislav Rostropovich. The title (A whole far-off world…) is also from Baudelaire. This is not a ‘cello concerto’; rather it is a piece for cello and orchestra. Tim Hugh proved a near-ideal soloist, less forceful and intense than Rostropovich, drawing the listener in to a very specific world composed with typical fastidiousness. There is a dream-like state to the music, the cellist communing with deep expression, the orchestra – often luminously beautiful here – providing a constantly shifting soundscape, precisely imagined and notated and here given with a sympathy that bodes well for pieces by Dutilleux that Valery Gergiev will conduct next season.

If not everything was quite exacting enough (for this composer), the performance was often spellbinding in its concentration and introspection, the exotic dancing of the final ‘Hymne’ a natural release before scurrying away to nothing. Although the music is accessible it is also personal and demands focussed listening over its 30-minute unbroken course. Dutilleux was not in attendance but word will no doubt get back to him that his piece was done proud and warmly received.

Yevgeny NikitinTaking an act from any opera can be less than satisfying. This time it worked; and indeed correlation was found between Dutilleux’s soundworld and that of Wagner for his last music. Certainly in the orchestral opening Gergiev found tragedy and terror, and conjured something implicitly theatrical without disturbing the all-important slow-burn and transcendental aspects of this final Act. René Pape should have sung the role of Gurnemanz. Robert Holl replaced him. He was magnificent, a vivid and human narration. Less convincing was Sergey Semishkur as Parsifal; he lacked dimension of voice and characterisation if warming to both as he progressed. Evgeny Nikitin was imposing as Amfortas. Genevieve Cope (a member of the London Symphony Chorus) had little to do save whimper Kundry’s demise (she then disappeared and was denied applause at the close) and the men of the Chorus brought savage dignity as Titurel’s pallbearers.

The LSO played raptly, the strings with inner intensity, Emanuel Abbühl illuminating everything the oboe plays, Andrew Marriner corresponding on his clarinet, the horns noble, the ‘Good Friday Music’ a solemn procession. Only the bells disappointed, fine as such, but with no attempt to replicate the timbre that Wagner required in the self-designed set for Bayreuth.

Nevertheless, this completing part of Wagner’s Bühnenweihfestspiel (Sacred Festival Drama) proved both engrossing and revealing, deeply dedicated. A shame, then, that the concert wasn’t recorded. Given the bombast of Mahler from these forces (concerts, BBC Radio 3 and LSO Live) something as intriguing as this programme, and its very successful realisation (on a day that had witnessed a memorial service for Richard Hickox at St Paul’s Cathedral, Colin Davis, Charles Mackerras and Edward Gardner among the conductors, and the funeral of Henry Greenwood – born in the same year as Dutilleux – an LSO member, as violinist and librarian, for over 40 years), warranted some form of archiving beyond the memory of those who attended or a review such as this!

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